Merck, Sharp & Dohme has rolled out a lower-dose version of its “powerful” non-steroidal anti-inflammatory Arcoxia in the UK, to help address the growing challenges of managing osteoarthritis.

According to the group, the new 30mg, once-daily formulation of Arcoxia (etoricoxib) was shown to work just as well as the maximum amount of ibuprofen (800mg three times daily), but, as it is effective at a much lower dose, may offer patients the added benefit of a lower risk of potentially serious side effects.

Clinical trials indicate that use of the COX-2 inhibitor class of drugs is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks and strokes, and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency advises doctors to prescribe the lowest possible effective dose for the shortest duration possible to ensure that the benefit-risk equation stays favourable.

’Greater flexibility
Dr Rob Sword, a GP in Derbyshire, says he welcomes the availability of a new, lower dose form of the drug, particularly as it is becoming increasingly difficult to treat and manage osteoarthritis. “The 30mg gives us greater flexibility in selecting the appropriate treatment for each patient,” he explained.

The difficulties in treating patients with the condition was recently highlighted by a survey of doctors that found that 85% of osteoarthritis patients visiting the GP are in fact existing patients, with 45% returning because their symptoms are not being managed adequately.